Published: April 30, 2019
KANSAS CITY, MO. — The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art joins the Bloch family and Bloch Family Foundation in profound sadness with news of the death of Henry Wollman Bloch, who died peacefully on April 22, surrounded by his family, at the age of 96. The Nelson-Atkins was honored to be among the many organizations and civic efforts that benefited from Mr Bloch’s philanthropic leadership.
Mr Bloch founded the Business Council at the Nelson-Atkins in 1985. It is the most successful Business Council of any art museum in the United States.
“This is an enormous loss to the community and to the Nelson-Atkins,” said Richard C. Green, chair of the museum’s board of trustees. “Henry Bloch had an unfailing vision and enthusiasm that was borne of genuine gratitude. The Nelson-Atkins was truly fortunate to benefit from Henry’s leadership, guidance and passion for the arts. It is now our responsibility to reflect his wonderful example as we move into the future.”
“Henry is irreplaceable,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, director and chief executive officer of the Nelson-Atkins. “His leadership and dedication have been vital to the success of the Nelson-Atkins. But beyond the museum, Henry has been an outstanding citizen whose generosity and vision have had a transformative impact on Kansas City being the great city it is today. He has been a benefactor as well as a source of inspiration that continues to illuminate all that we do. We will miss him very much.”
Born July 30, 1922, Henry Bloch was the second of three sons of a middle-class family. A visionary entrepreneur and philanthropist, he co-founded H&R Block Inc in 1955 with his brother, Richard. The new firm specialized in income tax return preparation. They named the company “Block” because their family name, “Bloch,” was often mispronounced and misspelled.
Bloch had a passion for the arts. He served as chairman of the board of trustees for the Nelson-Atkins from May 2004 to April 30, 2007.
“This is a sad day. Henry has been a fundamental pillar of leadership for the Nelson-Atkins for so many years,” said Shirley Bush Helzberg, former chair of the museum’s board of trustees. “His steadfast support and keen eye for sound business practices will be sorely missed. And he was a true gentleman.”
In June 2007, the museum opened the internationally acclaimed Bloch Building expansion, named in honor of Marion and Henry Bloch. And in 2010, the Blochs announced that they would donate their expansive personal collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings to the museum, which includes works from artists such as Monet, van Gogh, Cezanne, Renoir and Degas. The collection of 29 masterpieces was assembled by the Blochs over a period of more than 20 years with the guidance of Marc F. Wilson, director emeritus of the Nelson-Atkins, and it was officially accessioned into the museum’s permanent collection in July 2015.
As part of accepting the Bloch collection into the Nelson-Atkins collection, the museum began an $11.7 million renovation, funded by the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation. The art was integrated with the museum’s European collection, and the Bloch Galleries opened in March 2017. Since opening, the Bloch Galleries have become the most popular spot in the entire Nelson-Atkins.
The result of careful research and consultation with curators and conservators from across the United States, including former Nelson-Atkins director Ralph T. Coe, the collection is an excellently balanced and maintained selection of superlative works from the seminal artists of these periods. Among the famed pieces are Manet’s “The Croquet Party,” van Gogh’s “Restaurant Rispal at Asnières”, Gauguin’s “The Willow” and Cézanne’s “Man with a Pipe,” as well as major works by Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, Morisot and Sisley and modern masters Bonnard and Matisse. The scholarship of Impressionism continues to resonate at the Nelson-Atkins today because of Bloch’s dedication and steadfast support.
Mr Bloch is survived by four children: Robert L. Bloch, Thomas M. Bloch, Mrs Mary Jo Brown, and Mrs Elizabeth Uhlmann, all of Kansas City; 12 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. His wife, Marion, died in 2013.
The Nelson-Atkins is at 45th and Oak Streets. For further information, 816-751-1278 or www.nelson-atkins.org.
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